Many of those with long TV sportscasting careers have talked about how their academic backgrounds didn’t really prepare them for what they needed to know, and about how much they had to learn on the job. Now, Dan Patrick is launching a sportscasting school in conjunction with Florida’s Full Sail University to try and offer practical academic instruction for aspiring sportscasters.
And he has plenty of help: 23-year ESPN veteran and talent coach Gus Ramsey will be the program director, and the likes of Bill Simmons, Jeremy Schaap, and Jay Harris will provide guest instruction a couple of times a year. (Former ESPN president George Bodenheimer is reportedly in talks for a role as well.)
This particular program (which will combine online and on-campus coursework) has been in the works for a couple of years, with Patrick and his agent Reed Bergman reaching out to the school (which offers 80 programs in entertainment, media production and emerging technology) in December 2015. But it’s been a goal of Patrick’s for much longer, as he told Sports Business Journal‘s John Ourand:
He said he first started thinking of developing a program like this 10 to 15 years ago after he kept running into recent college graduates who were as clueless about how to move forward in sportscasting as Patrick once was.
“I kept hearing questions that should have already been answered in college,” Patrick said. “How many reps did they get in front of a camera? Did somebody teach them how to do a podcast? Do they know how to speak in front of people? Have you had an interviewing coach? …
“I have a communications degree from Dayton. There wasn’t much to the curriculum that helped me get to where I am. In fact, the only class that really helped me was a speech class. The other things didn’t as much.”
Here are more details on the program (a bachelor of science degree in sportscasting) from Full Sail’s website:
The way we watch and follow sports may change, but the role of the sportscaster continues to serve as an essential part of the audience’s experience. It’s a position that requires a unique combination of skills – from on-camera presenting, to live production, to interviewing and content creation – plus an understanding of where sports media is headed in the future.
Developed in collaboration with sportscasting veteran Dan Patrick, the goal of the Sportscasting bachelor’s degree is to provide students with constant real-world experience both on camera and behind the scenes. You’ll build a foundation in interviewing, voice work, writing and storytelling, with ongoing guidance from professional mentors who are active in the world of sportscasting. Plus, you’ll gain advanced knowledge in news-gathering, reporting, and multimedia communication, and develop presenting skills for current and emerging technologies – from broadcast, to gaming, to virtual and augmented reality.
To help you move toward your desired path, industry experts serving as associate faculty will help guide you in the development and review of your demo reel. You’ll also have ongoing course modules dedicated to career preparation – from résumé writing, to personal branding, to job interview skills. And our Career Development advisors and services will be available for support and assistance throughout your career – not just while you are a student.
Of course, there are other broadcast journalism degree programs out there, and some with a sports focus. But Patrick’s plan here seems to have some potential, especially with its focus on teaching practical lessons learned in the field. He told Ourand that’s why he picked Ramsey to head it up:
“There’s no better person who can be on the ground every single day teaching these kids what they need to do to get ready for local or national, ESPN, in front of the camera, behind the camera — he was that essential to this program,” Patrick said. “Firsthand knowledge is essential to this program. Gus was vital for that. In his job at ESPN, he would deal with the kids who had just graduated from college. They’d go in there and log highlights. Gus’ job was to work with them.”
…Ramsey said he had grown frustrated with how inexperienced recent college graduates were, from not knowing how to operate a teleprompter to not knowing the types of questions to ask during an on-camera interview.
“There was just a lack of understanding some of the basic day-to-day operational stuff,” Ramsey said. “I found myself constantly correcting things that people were learning in school. My mantra has become that in our classrooms, we’re going to teach you what people who have been in the control room have been learning for the past 20 years.”
So, that certainly could be appealing to those looking to pursue a sportscasting career. However, it’s notable that there aren’t a lot of national sportscasting (or sportswriting, or anything) jobs currently available, especially with this year’s waves of layoffs. It’s not like sports broadcasting is going away, and some new blood will certainly be needed at some point (and there are some opportunities at the lower end, especially with the growing amount of content being picked up by online outlets and streaming services), but it is a tough market to get into.
Patrick’s program and its focus on the practical may help those who really want to pursue sportscasting, though. And he told Ourand he’ll be heavily involved, leading on-campus courses at least four times a year (impressive considering his radio show’s based in Connecticut, a decent trip away), hosting webinars, getting contacts to talk to students and hopefully helping to place them after their degree. He said he’s fully invested:
“I’m in,” he said. “It’s my name. I’m as prideful of this as I am the radio show that bears my name.”